I've seen Chad VanGaalen three times before and each time was different, whether he was solo or traveling with other musicians, he has never been quite the same twice. But I was fairly shocked when the deep electronic noise of this tour almost knocked the wind out of me, nearly cracking a rib. He's always had a penchant for weird electronic background noise but it's usually in a more winsome vein. His recordings tend to be intentionally reedy and thin, a very purposeful low-tech sound, that perfectly compliments the tremulous and heartbreaking vibrato of his vocals as his odd and surprising lyrics take you on unexpected journeys.
I first learned of this artist through his music video and animation for the song "Red Hot Drops" back in 2006 when music videos were my only window to new music. His animation is as spare and oddly haunting, weird and witty as his music. When Band Of Horses played at Avalon in October 2006, Chad VanGaalen was on the bill with them and I went. I'd seen Band Of Horses in a small Hollywood Club (King King) before and wanted to see them on a bigger stage, but it was VanGaalen who captured most of my attention that night. It was hypnotic the way he was able to command the room with just his hushed voice and tiny guitar, playing songs of such delicate beauty it was almost heartbreaking.
He came to Spaceland on Mar 28, 2009 to tour on the release of the Soft Airplane, which was his best album so far. That was a hugely memorable show and forever committed me to seeing him every chance I got. This was a remarkably unique talent that piqued my curiosity in the subversive nature of his art. It seems simultaneously childlike simple and intellectually dark and intense. At the Culture Collide Festival in October 2011, I saw him next, but as he was in town for this show as a solo, and not on tour, it was not the best venue for him on the big outdoor stage in the parking lot outside Taix. He was not able to make much of an impression on a crowd that had been watching bands for hours already.
Releasing his latest album, Shrink Dust, in April, I'd had a chance to be confused, challenged, curious and finally pleased by this latest entry. It took a bit of getting used to, but I think I've come to like it best of all. Appearing at The Echo, last Wednesday, June 18, I was really excited to see this show, so that when he began the set, with another guitarist and a drummer, the album was turned into a rock show. A hard rock show, and that was a surprise.
Beginning with the first few songs of the album in order, they were, frankly barely recognizable, and when on "Where Are You?" he crouched down on his soundboard and blew the back wall off The Echo with chest crushing noise, I wondered what was to come. Was he morphing into My Bloody Valentine? Things calmed down considerably after that and the charms of each song became apparent. "Frozen Paradise", "Lila" "Hangman's Son" and "Evil" are really beautiful songs and even though some were overcome by passages of pure noise, I began to see the point of it.
Taking all into account, I could have wished that Chad's vocals were mixed a little bit louder, but this was the first time I saw him play in arena rock-style and even though it was a bit much for the tiny Echo, I wouldn't have missed it for the world. Oh, and the place was packed, so I guess a lot of people agree with me.
Came of age in the 60's on the East coast. Movie fanatic. Rock and Roll fanatic. Went to Woodstock. Moved to L.A. late 70's. Stopped listening to Rock in the mid 80's when I couldn't find anything I liked and assumed Rock was dead. Then in 2005 Indie-rock reached out and grabbed me and my life changed almost overnight. Went to my first concert in 25 years in Nov.'05. Can't stop. I've been to over 500 concerts in the last 5 years. Totally immersed in the local music scene and had to start this blog to keep from exploding.XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX
I'm also now a senior editor at Radio Free Silver Lake